Over the objections of Superintendent of Schools Edward Andrews, the County Council and more than 20 community organizations, the Montgomery County school board went to court yesterday in an attempt to reverse actions by the Maryland Board of Education that reversed several school closings and boundary changes.
The county board contends the state panel exceeded its authority last month in overturning decisions affecting three schools. The appeal, filed yesterday in Montgomery Circuit Court, will not affect actions taken earlier this week by the board to comply with the state's action, but if successful could result in reversing those actions in time for the 1983-84 school year. Attorneys for the school board asked that the court reach a decision quickly, saying it would be disruptive to the school system if a decision is delayed. The assistant attorney general who will defend the state board could not be reached yesterday.
The nine-member state board found that the Montgomery board's vote last November to close Rosemary Hills Elementary and change the attendance patterns of Montgomery Blair High and Eastern Intermediate schools were "arbitrary and unreasonable because they placed an inordinate burden on minority students and violated the local board's own racial balance policies." It was the first time the state board had ever reversed a local board on a school closing.
To comply with the state action, the local board voted Wednesday to close North Chevy Chase and Rollingwood elementaries instead of Rosemary Hills, which has been a symbol of voluntary integration in the county.
Despite the objections of its superintendent and others, members of the Montgomery board who favored the closing of Rosemary Hills remained adamant in pushing the appeal.
"When the courts overrule the state board, the students located at Rosemary Hills can be relocated to North Chevy Chase," said board member Marian Greenblatt.
"We are not reconsidering (dropping the court challenge)," said member Joseph Barse. "The board is still strongly supportive of taking this case to court. We should have the option of going back to our original decisions."
School board attorneys Charles Reece and E. Stephen Derby contend that the state board's action constituted adopting new rules and that it was unlawful to adopt them without publishing a notice in the Maryland Register and seeking the views of interested parties.
The county board also argues that its actions were taken "in conformity with all applicable federal and state constitutional . . . regulatory provisions" and that the state board exceeded its authority by reversing the decisions after announcing that it had found no violations of those provisions.
Finally, the appeal accuses the state board of determining local, not statewide, educational policy.
County Council Vice President Michael Gudis and three other members of the council sent a letter to the county board urging them to reconsider filing the law suit. "The communities involved will not know for some time how the appeal will come out," Gudis said.
Organizations ranging from the county's League of Women Voters to the Archdiocese of Washington's Office of Social Concerns have voiced support of the state board decisions and said the local board should not cause further complications by going to court.
"They are keeping communities in a state of confusion and anxiety," charged Roscoe Nix, president of the county's NAACP chapter. Carla Satinsky of the League of Women Voters said, "We thought it best that the county Board of Education try to heal the wounds rather than try to fight it out."